I am now a full time college student and its been radically differant from the military to say the least. I was given a an assignment for my comopsition class in what was the biggest influence in your life. I would have to say was my deconversion. I wrote this essay and the first whole rough draft is due on wed. I was wondering what you all thought of it? I am looking for content criticism in this, but any constructive crit is good.

The Biggest Influence In My Life

How do you describe the biggest influence in your life? How do you narrow it down? I have had many turning points in my life. The bribe from a family friend that I received to stay in High School and graduate? Or what about when I joined the Navy right out of High School? How about when I re-enlisted the first time? When I got married the first time and decided to stay in and that put me over 10 years and making the decision to stay in the Navy until retirement at 20 years? Maybe when I decided that staying with that woman and only being marginally happy or divorce her and risk it to go alone? The picking of orders to Japan that eventually led me to meeting my current wife and to be much happier in my person? Or what about coming back to my home town of Palos Hills and deciding to go to college full time after I retired from the Navy?

No. I would have to say the thing that influenced me most was “de-conversion“, for lack of a better term, from Christianity. Nothing shifts your life’s paradigm more than the loss or gaining of a belief. Once you work your way through the misconceptions of Atheism, get a good background on science and philosophy and other arts, you get to dig into the inconsistencies of your faith and that of other faiths; to only have your reasoned opinions lambasted by other people in ignorance and insulting ways to you and about you no matter how logical your reason are, because logic is not what people are looking for. Its unreasoning faith alone in a God.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Atheists is that we Atheists have no idea of the concepts of the main religion of the area. That is not true to say the least. Because of this misconception and my own upbringing, I am very knowledgeable about Christianity in particular . I have also studied many other religions and philosophies over the years. Most Atheists who engage other people in discussion, by necessity, have to know about many different religious dogmas, and various disciplines of science including but not limited to, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Plate Tectonics, Geology, and Cosmology. Not only forcing necessity to learn some of all those, but also things like Debating, Sociology and Psychology. I am no more than an interested amateur in any of these subjects, but having to know something of all of them to refute most of the main arguments that are commonly used.

One of the things that I have been accused of fairly frequently is being a Devil Worshiper. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I don’t think your God is real, so how can I believe or worship your Devil? It is my opinion that there is nothing supernatural at all. There is no God, Satan or Devil, Heaven, Hell, Angels, Demons, Spirits or anything else like that. Supernatural is just that, Super-natural and everything has a reasoned explanation to it. We might not know what it is at this moment in time or I might not know what it is but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an explanation for it. “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”-Christopher Hitchens.

Funny thing in my education of these subjects is that it was not conventional education. I have learned much of these science subjects listed above through things like YouTube.Com videos on those subjects from subject matter experts. Then finding e-books and online articles on subjects. There has been a few authors that I have bought hard copy books of and read them or downloaded on audio to my Ipod. The one that I was most interested in reading about for a foundation in Evolutionary Biology would be Professor Richard Dawkins’ book “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.” and for philosophy would be Sam Harris-”The End of Faith” and Christopher Hitchens-”God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” These gentlemen are considered controversial in some circles but, these men are the top in their fields respectively, excellent orators and authors who have much to say about their subjects.

I grew up local to this area and belonged to a Christian Fundamentalist church not that far from here. Accepting the religion of the church I attended whole heartedly. I went to 3 services on Sundays, one on Wednesday night, a Friday night service sometimes, and during the summers, it was Christian summer camp for several weeks of the summer. I have read the Bible cover to cover two times and many passages many more times in growing up in the church all the way through High School. I was a true believer and not one people who gave “Lip Service” only. If my church had a regular choir, I would have been a choir boy.

I had first started to question my faith and religion when I was in Jr. High School and it was over something to a member of my church, that was a dogma issue. The game Dungeons and Dragons had become very popular and a few people had supposedly committed suicide from playing. One of the Elders of the Church wife had said that the game was evil and you say “magic words” to cast spells in the game and playing the game at all was “Devil Worship”. I had told her that I had been playing the game for some time at this point and at no time did I ever say prayers to the Devil or did I say any “magic words” to cast a spell other than say “I cast X spell at Y.” or something to that effect. I chalked it up to ignorance of this older woman to a game she had no first hand or possibly even second hand knowledge of. How could a simple game of imagination be evil?

I had started to notice all of the inconsistencies of Bible and the terrible morality of it. This was only possible through diligent study for years and logical study and thinking about the Bible and what it really says. There are two stories of Creation in the Bible and they don’t match up from chapter one and chapter two in Genesis. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is only mentioned in two of the four Gospels and they also aren’t quite the same. There is also the matter of Jesus’ lineage. The two mentioned are not only radically different in length but only a few of the names are the same. Also, if Jesus was born of a virgin why did the lineage of Joseph even matter because Joseph is not his father and lineage was never traced through the mother at that time.? Mary wasn’t asked to be his mother, she was told by the Holy Spirit that she had been chosen. Where was Mary’s consent in this? To me this is nothing more than a “Holy Rape” as we would call it today because, sex without consent is nothing more than a rape. The Bible specifically says that homosexuals, unbelievers and misbehaving children are to be stoned to death at the edge of town. These “Laws of God” if practiced today will and have landed people in prison for rest of their natural lives. These “Laws” are more suited to a Bronze Age Desert Nomadic culture and not a modern city based culture of secular laws that we have in the West and most of the rest of the world.

One of the biggest inconsistencies in not only the form of the Bible but in its tone as well in the difference between the Old and New Testaments. I know that there is a huge gap in the writing of the two by several hundred of years and that alone could be the difference in the tone. But, if the Bible is supposedly the “Inspired Word of God”, then why the difference in the writing styles? In the Old Testament you have God who is active in the world from time to time. God is doing things like destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, parting the Red Sea, sending plagues to Egypt, flooding the whole world and sending pillars of fire to start a burnt offering.. All of these are arguable if they happened or not and I won’t touch them here, but I mention them to contrast with the New Testament. The New Testament has none of that in it. It is if God left humanity alone. Why so active in the Old Testament smiting people and making his presence known from time to time, to nothing at all other than showing yourself to people with questionable psychology in the New Testament and all the way up to modern times.

Predestination is a topic that was one of the big turning points for me in particular along with the concept of a God that will allow innocent children to suffer as learning tools for them and those around them to “Know God’s mercy” in afflicting innocents with horrible diseases. Predestination is the concept that your fate is already decided as to what is going to happen with you soul. This flies in direct contradiction of the concept of Free Will that was also taught at my church. It was said that I had free will to do what I want but at the same time, God already knew what was going to happen in my life and had “Ordained” it to happen. Hence the “Thy will be done”, in many prayers offered both in church and privately by myself over the years I had faith. How can you have Free Will and also yet God has already predestined you to a fate of Heaven or Hell. In my case, I was a true believer who lost his faith and now condemned to go to hell? Why would a loving God want to have me wholly believe and then not believe and send me to hell? One of the many things that make think that God doesn’t exist.

But probably the biggest thing that has affected me in many ways in how my “Reasoned Opinions”, as I try not to have beliefs, have affected my socially. The biggest philosophical paradigm shift that a person can do is the realization that is not a God. I have gained and lost many friends over this difference of opinion. Some of my friends, whom I have known for many years, have decided to end their friendships with me over this. Some just told me that they didn’t want to be friends with someone who didn’t have faith of any kind let alone one that didn’t match theirs. On my second ship, I had a friend Dan, whom I had worked with closely for over 5 years. While we never talked of religion on the ship, as at that point I was more of an Agnostic, that is someone who doesn’t know if there is a God or not, we talked many hours on watch in the engine rooms and while on liberty in foreign ports and just generally hung out. We were friends. When this past April during Easter Week, I posted many Atheist links and quotes on my FaceBook.com page, he de-friended me with no warning to me. I sent him an email asking what I had done to offend him, and he replied back that he could not be friends with someone who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. If I hadn’t sent him an email, I think that he would not have spoken to me at all about this. I see this as not on insulting to me as a person and who was a good friend, but a flaw in not only his faith, if its that weak that he can not have a friend who holds a different view, but a flaw in his character as well. He was also not the only person during that week of Easter to disassociate themselves from me. I had a total of approximately 60 people decide to end their association with me on FaceBook.com and in person as well including a first cousin of mine.

One of the most telling incidents on how people see Atheists is a young man I knew who was out processing from Japan and worked with me for a few months. He was a young man who had made a mistake and while his paperwork for discharge was in process was working for me. This made three coworkers who were all Fundamentalist Christians and I was the only person who held a different view and mine was that of no God. This made working in the store rooms interesting to say the least. I had many questions of not only why I hold the opinions that I do, but also where I get my morality and many other topics of discussion This young man actually said to me one day “You are way too cool be an Atheist.” My response to him was “What does my Atheism have anything at all to do with weather or not I am a cool guy?” He really didn’t have a reply to that and the conversation very quickly shifted to other areas, usually not really giving me enough time to really refute or argue my points cogently enough to satisfy their questions. I usually felt ambushed and “ganged up” on by them when we were in the store rooms.

Atheism is not something that you “Choose to be“, any more than someone can choose to be left handed, or color blind. Some people have equated the Atheist struggle for acceptance in society as similar to the Gays struggle in the 60’s and 70’s. Reason and not faith drove me and, also with the apparent lack of concern by God, all the scientific evidence lead me to reason that there is not a god. All the killings and wars that are going on even this day in the name of God from all sides. Sam Harris in the book “The End of Faith” has said that faith in God is the most dangerous thing that man has ever invented. We have learned weapons of mass destruction and the ability to utterly destroy the planet before we have learned to not be tribal in our outlook and end silly and dangerous superstitions. “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”-Epicurus Greek Philosopher. Why are people who are rational and logical in every aspect of their lives, can not be rational and logical when it comes to the concept of God that is based in Bronze Age myth of Middle Eastern nomadic sheepherders?

Views: 7

Tags: disbelief, essay, faith, public, questioning

Comment by willailla on September 28, 2010 at 2:34pm
Matthew, it's too late to begin a rewrite of your paper, and it's probably okay, but I would have started it with the paragraph that begins: "I grew up local to this area and belonged to a Christian Fundamentalist church not that far from here." [change to 'I grew up belonging to a.....].

This starts your paper off on the required personal tone in keeping with the topic and is the real beginning. Everything follows from this logically. But, as I say, you don't have time for a rewrite. And I think you'll do alright.

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